Official Wine Categories
DOC or DOP
At the top level of the European wine hierarchy, Portugal has 31 DOCs/DOPs. At the moment, both of these terms are used in Portugal, the traditional local ‘DOC’ (Denominação de Origem Controlada) meaning Controlled Designation of Origin, while the new pan-European ‘DOP’ (Denominação de Origem Protegida) means Protected Designation of Origin. Each of these regions has its own strictly defined geographical boundaries – note that the map numbers only go up to 29 because two of the regions, Douro and Port and Madeira and Madeirense, have the same ‘footprint’ and are numbered together. DOC regulations also prescribe maximum grape yields, recommended and permitted grape varieties and various other things, and all the wines have to be officially tasted, tested and approved.
IG or IGP (Vinho Regional)
The whole of the country is divided into 14 ‘Regional Wine’ areas. Wines from these areas have for years been labelled in Portugal as Vinho Regional. Now the European Union has introduced new titles for this category of wine: ‘IG’, meaning ‘Geographical Indication’ or ‘IGP’ – ‘Protected Geographical Indication.’ Most Portuguese regions have chosen to keep the old denomination, VR. Rules for making Vinho Regional are much less stringent than those that govern DOC wines. Nevertheless, many prestigious Portuguese wines are classified as Vinho Regional. This is often because the producer has chosen to use grape varieties that are not permitted for the local DOC, or at least not in those particular combinations or proportions.The looser regulations for Vinho Regional give producers greater scope for individuality, although these wines still have to fulfil certain criteria as to grape variety, minimum alcohol content and so on.
Vinhos (Wines) are Portugal's simplest wines, subject to none of the rules stipulated for quality or regional wines. Note, however, that a very few really stunning wines are labelled simply as table wines. These tend to be from ambitious growers who have chosen to work outside the official rules, and have deliberately classified their wine as table wine.